In Sam Pitroda blueprint for Cong revival, an HR dept and a CTO
Two-months-and-a-bit after its president Rahul Gandhi resigned, the Congress Working Committee will finally meet the day after the budget session of parliament ends and discuss how to go about picking a new chief, according to people familiar with the matter who asked not to be named.
The party’s communications in-charge Randeep Singh Surjewala confirmed that the CWC, the Congress’s highest decision-making body, would meet after the current session of parliament , but said the agenda for the meeting hadn’t been decided yet.
HT learns that a report suggesting ways to revive the party may also be discussed at the meeting. Sam Pitroda, a trusted advisor of the Gandhi family, has prepared the report.
HT also learns that the report, submitted two weeks ago, lists around 20 suggestions to revive the 134-year-old party which followed up its worst performance in parliamentary elections in 2014 (44 seats won in a house of 543) with its second-worst in 2019 (52). One suggestion is a complete corporatisation of the party with the appointment of a chief technical officer, a human resources department and objectives being set for every office bearer.
The CWC meeting, which is slated for either August 8 or 10, depending on when Parliament adjourns, will make one last attempt to persuade Rahul Gandhi to withdraw his resignation, HT learns. At a meeting of general secretaries of the party on Friday, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra is reported to have told others to not “drag her name”’ as a potential successor, as suggested by leaders like Shashi Tharoor and Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh. This suggestion was repeated by another general secretary at the meeting, but nixed by Priyanka Gandhi, a Congress general secretary.
Rahul Gandhi resigned in late May, but the CWC is yet to accept his resignation. It is also yet to meet to discuss possible candidates or even decide on the process of picking a new president. Meanwhile, it has seen significant defections from its Goa unit, and the fall of its coalition government — with the Janata Dal (Secular ) — in Karnataka.
United Progressive Alliance chairperson and former Congress president Sonia Gandhi has taken charge of the party in parliament, but the party itself has remained leaderless. Many of its leaders still appear to be in shock after the defeat — and the party doesn’t seem to have understood the reasons for its poor performance.
The CWC meeting could, if it chooses a new president or at least decides on the modalities of doing so, end the uncertainty. Elections in Jharkand, Haryana and Maharashtra are expected to be held before the end of the year. Elections may also be held in Jammu & Kashmir, which is currently under President’s rule.
In his report, Pitroda mentions a Mission 2020, and says the party should prepare a gameplan for its revival within the next 60 days. A CTO should be appointed not just in the All India Congress Committee but in every state unit. This person’s job would be to use technology to “organise, manage and monitor” platforms such as social media and also manage data analytics. This suggestion comes after many in the party blamed the ill-functioning of the data analytics department run by Praveen Chakravarty for the 2019 poll disaster.
The modern digital HR system, according to Pitroda, should immediately write job descriptions and rating systems for each office bearer. This is perhaps aimed at delivering on the demand for accountability that Rahul Gandhi stressed while resigning from the party at the May 25 CWC meeting.
Pitroda also suggests that the CWC be supplemented with a new board of 10 members. This board, Pitroda says, should be entirely composed of outsiders including professionals, those from the world of industry, finance and business and infrastructure.
This new board then would meet the Congress president and CWC every three months to offer advice. The current system of general secretaries, he said, should be not according to region as it is now. For instance, Priyanka Gandhi is in charge of Eastern UP. Instead, he suggests, it should be divided by themes — for instance a political general secretary, one for finance, one for membership and HR, one for elections, and one for states.
New Delhi based political analyst N Bhaskara Rao said the idea of corporatisation was not viable and the Congress should try to revive its links with the people at the grassroots.
“Sam Pitroda may be a good technocrat but he seems to be totally cut off from the Indian politics. What is needed for the Congress is to renew its grassroots linkage through service-oriented revitalisation similar to what its Seva Dal used to do. As you (Congress) are already out of touch with grassroots with corporatisation you will be out of touch of India,” he said.